Ok so now Shermer’s “response” is online, so I can look at a couple of other details I omitted because I didn’t want to retype the whole damn thing.
By the way I get to respond in the next issue. I’m going to do that. I’ll be briefer, and more polite, and I won’t pretend to think anyone is going to “come for me.”
When self-proclaimed secular feminists attacked Richard Dawkins for a seemingly innocent response to an equally innocent admonishment to guys by Rebecca Watson (the founder of Skepchicks) that it isn’t cool to hit on women in elevators, this erupted into what came to be known as “Elevatorgate.” I didn’t speak out because I figured that an intellect as formidable as Richard Dawkins’s did not need my comparatively modest brainpower in support.
When these same self-described secular feminists went after Sam Harris for a commentary supporting racial profiling in the search for terrorists, again I didn’t speak out.
One, I wonder why he keeps saying “self-proclaimed/self-described secular feminists” that way. I don’t “proclaim” myself that, and I’m not sure I know anyone who does. I do talk about secularism a lot, and of course I talk about feminism a lot. So? Why does Shermer seem to be holding both at arm’s length as if they smelled?
Two, no they didn’t. The same people didn’t do both. We’re not an army, we don’t march in unison. I haven’t said anything about Sam Harris since I reviewed The Moral Landscape for The Philosophers’ Magazine. I don’t find him very interesting.
But perhaps I should have spoken out, because now the inquisition has been turned on me, by none other than one of the leading self-proclaimed secular feminists whose work has heretofore been important in the moral progress of our movement. I have already responded to this charge against me elsewhere,* so I will only briefly summarize it here. Instead of allowing my inquisitors to force me into the position of defending myself (I still believe in the judicial principle of innocence until proven guilty), I shall use this incident to make the case for moral progress.
Could outraged vanity make itself any more apparent? (I said I was going to be more polite in the magazine. I didn’t say I would be more polite here.) The inquisition forsooth. This is self-importance at work: it can’t be that I simply criticised something he did actually say, no, because he is so important, therefore my audacity in criticising becomes an inquisition. And note “whose work has heretofore been important” – meaning, presumably, that it stopped being important when and because I lurched off the Path of Importance and inquisitioned him instead. And then note the nonsense about forcing him into defending himself, and the courtroom nonsense. Look on this example, oh ye mighty, and despair – or don’t despair, but do resolve never to let vanity get that kind of grip on you.
As for why the sex ratio isn’t perfectly fifty-fifty, Hall noted: “I think it is unreasonable to expect that equal numbers of men and women will be attracted to every sphere of human endeavor. Science has shown that real differences exist. We should level the playing field and ensure there are no preventable obstacles, then let the chips fall where they may.”
You don’t say so!
Very few people actually think every sphere of human endeavor has to have exactly equal numbers of women and men. That’s a straw man. But we haven’t yet finished that little job of ensuring there are no preventable obstacles, so it’s way way way too early to let the chips fall any old how. The kind of thing that Shermer said, which is a kind of thing that lots of people say, is one of those preventable – or at least minimizable – obstacles. I’m trying to do my tiny bit to prevent that kind. That’s not an evil thing to do. Shermer seems to think it is, but he’s wrong.